June 21, 2006
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
Eclipse Aviation's self-imposed June 30 deadline for FAA certification was looming large in Albuquerque this week as the company worked to clean up details and heave itself over the finish line. All signs -- public and private -- point to a photo finish later this month when company officials hope both the stars and its suppliers will align perfectly with the FAA's paperwork requirements to produce that magic piece of paper. While no one at Eclipse would go on the record with AVweb when we asked the inevitable "howgozit" question, we can read between the lines as well as the next guy or gal and offer up this not-so-earthshaking prediction: It's too close to call. Indications are that a small handful of items remain to be finalized before the FAA can act. Whether those challenges can be met and the airplane certificated by June 30 is anyone's guess. And we're not going to stick out our neck that far.
At this point, though, whether Eclipse will meet its deadline is really an academic exercise. Even if June 30 comes and goes without the first certificated very light jet (VLJ), you can bet that EAA AirVenture, which starts July 24, will see at least one Eclipse 500 on the flight line with what passes for the FAA's approval stamp. The real question is: If Eclipse doesn't make the deadline, who will get the blame and what will the company say? That one's fairly predictable, though, and we'll climb out on a stout limb to suggest that the ubiquitous and all-encompassing "supplier-induced delays" will get the lion's share of the blame if Eclipse blows past June 30 without a certificated airplane. In the end, it won't really matter, however. Eclipse will still have the first certificated VLJ, with Cessna, Adam and Embraer -- to name a few -- following closely behind, though not necessarily in that order or perhaps with a "pure" VLJ, however the industry may come to define that term. Instead, what will really matter is how well the first few months of in-service operation go for the new jet and whether any of them are involved in accidents/incidents. We'll keep you posted.
Just when you thought it was safe to land on that rain-slick runway, the FAA may be about to change the rules. A formal FAA document, published in the Federal Register on June 7 and labeled an "advance notice of policy statement," says the agency on June 30 will issue a revision to existing policy governing turbojet operators and the landing distances they require. The change in policy stems from December 2005's landing overrun accident at Chicago's Midway Airport, involving a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 and a fatality, the carrier's first. As a result of that accident -- helped along, no doubt, by the NTSB -- the FAA says it conducted an internal review of regulations, orders, notices, advisory circulars, ICAO and foreign country requirements, airplane manufacturer-developed material, independent source material and the current practices of air carrier operators to develop its new policy. And what does that policy say? Just this: "No later than September 1, 2006, turbojet operators will be required to have procedures in place to ensure that a full stop landing, with at least a 15% safety margin beyond the actual landing distance, can be made on the runway to be used, in the conditions existing at the time of arrival, and with the deceleration means and airplane configuration that will be used." In other words, according to the FAA, "absent an emergency, after the flightcrew makes this assessment using the air carrier's FAA-approved procedures, if at least the 15% safety margin is not available, the pilot may not land the aircraft." To implement the policy change, the FAA will issue mandatory OpSpec/MSpec C082, "Landing Performance Assessments After Dispatch," for all turbojet operators. The FAA says all "turbojet operators shall be brought into compliance with this notice and [its requirements] no later than October 1, 2006." The new OpSpec/MSpec C082 will be available from the FAA by June 30. 2006.
The policy change comes after the FAA's internal review revealed several issues. Among them:
- Fifty percent of the operators surveyed do not have policies in place for assessing whether sufficient landing distance exists at the time of arrival.
- Not all operators who perform landing distance assessments at the time of arrival have procedures that account for runway surface conditions or reduced braking action reports.
- Many operators who perform landing distance assessments at the time of arrival do not apply a safety margin to the expected actual (unfactored) landing distance. Those that do are inconsistent in applying an increasing safety margin.
- Some operators have developed their own contaminated runway landing performance data or are using data developed by third party vendors. In some cases, these data are less conservative than the airplane manufacturer's data for the same conditions.
- Credit for the use of thrust reversers in the landing performance data is not uniformly applied and pilots may be unaware of these differences. In one case, the FAA found differences within the same operator from one series of airplane to another within the same make and model.
- Airplane flight manual (AFM) landing performance data are determined during flight-testing using flight test and analysis criteria that are not representative of everyday operational practices.
- Wet and contaminated runway landing distance data are usually an analytical computation using the dry, smooth, hard surface runway data collected during certification. Therefore, the wet and contaminated runway data may not represent performance that is achieved in normal operations.
- Manufacturers do not provide advisory landing distance information in a standardized manner. However, most turbojet manufacturers make landing distance performance information available for a range of runway or braking action conditions using various airplane deceleration devices and settings under a variety of meteorological conditions.
- Manufacturer-supplied landing performance data for conditions worse than a dry smooth runway is normally an analytical computation based on the dry runway landing performance data, adjusted for a reduced airplane braking coefficient of friction available for the specific runway surface condition.
Bombardier Aerospace last week said its Learjet program had reached two major milestones: delivery of the 300th Learjet 45 and the 300th Learjet 60 aircraft. In commemoration, Bombardier conducted the two delivery ceremonies at the same spot where Bill Lear designed and built the original some 44 years ago. The 300th Learjet 45 was delivered to a U.S.-based distributor of agricultural products while a Finnish company accepted the 300th Learjet 60. "Sixteen years ago, Bombardier made a commitment to invest in new Learjet aircraft programs. This twin delivery milestone is a testament to the wisdom of that vision and to the enduring popularity of the legendary Learjet business jet, said Mike Kanaley, vice-president and general manager, Learjet. Since acquiring Learjet Inc. in 1990, Bombardier has launched eight new Learjet models, the most recent being the Learjet 60 XR, which is currently in a comprehensive flight test and certification program.
Introduced in 2002, the model 45 XR is the latest iteration of a "small" Learjet. Launched in 1990, the Learjet 60 will soon be succeeded by the model 60 XR, which was announced at NBAA in 2005. A Learjet 60 XR prototype made a two-hour, 20-minute first flight on April 3, and is currently in a flight test and certification program. Certification of the flight deck by the FAA is expected in the third quarter of 2006, with certification by Transport Canada and the European Aviation Safety Agency expected shortly thereafter. The first Learjet 60 XR aircraft is slated to enter service in the first quarter of 2007.
Cessna's first production Citation Mustang took flight last week, according to the company. The aircraft, the first jet assembled in Independence, Kan., flew two weeks ahead of schedule. Cessna said the new "baby" Citation will enter service in December as its first Mustang demonstrator aircraft. It is the fourth Mustang produced, and the first one that will not be used for FAA flight testing. Mustangs 0004 through 0015 are currently on the production line at Cessna's manufacturing facility in Independence. The three Mustangs dedicated to certification are the Mustang prototype and serial numbers 0001 and 0002. Certification flight hours on the three airplanes now total more than 1,250. FAA certification is expected later this year. The first Mustang customer delivery is scheduled for the first quarter of 2007.
The Citation Mustang program was announced at the 2002 NBAA convention. Cessna said in 2002 it planned to obtain FAA type certification in the third quarter of 2006 -- delivery of the first customer aircraft is expected in fourth quarter 2006 -- and the company has been relentless in making those deadlines in recent years. The company adds that the Citation Mustang will be certified as a single-pilot, FAR Part 23 aircraft, with an anticipated cruise speed of 340 KTAS and a maximum operating altitude of 41,000 feet. Other features include Pratt & Whitney PW615F engines and Garmin International's G1000 integrated avionics. Cessna has orders for more than 240 Mustangs.
Embraer earlier this month said it has begun cutting metal for the first Phenom 100 business jet at the companys main assembly plant in São José dos Campos, Brazil. The first part, a fuselage component connecting to an engine pylon, was milled from a block of aluminum alloy by a fully automated machining center driven by data from a "digital mock-up," according to the company. After the operation's completion, a quality-control process employing ultrasound and laser devices for validation with the digital mock-up approved the part. "We are very pleased to announce the first metal cut of the first Phenom 100, a landmark event for the program, said Luís Carlos Affonso, senior vice president, Executive Jets. This achievement is solid proof of Embraers focus and commitment to the Phenom program and to delivering a revolutionary jet that will offer the very finest in flight experience. The entire Phenom 100 production process was planned and simulated with digital manufacturing in mind, as well as the use of production simulations of aluminum and composite parts, assembly operations and ergonomics.
Embraer said it will adopt a multi-site assembly strategy for Phenom 100 and 300 jets, with the company's plant in Botucatu housing the production of structural components and structural assembly. Final assembly of the Phenom jets -- interior completion, painting and flight testing -- will be at the Gavião Peixoto facility. The company expects first deliveries of the Phenom 100 to begin in mid-2008. The first flight of the Phenom 100 is scheduled for mid-2007.
DayJet, the "per-seat, on-demand" start-up operation planning to use a fleet of Eclipse 500 VLJs to provide regional air service, last week announced its first five service points, which the company dubbed "DayPorts." The cities, all in Florida, are Boca Raton, Gainesville, Lakeland, Pensacola and Tallahassee, which DayJet says were selected for their strong business climate and limited transportation infrastructure (read "limited or no scheduled service.") The company said it is in "final negotiations" with FBOs and airports in each of the five cities to operate its DayPorts, the concept for which includes passenger facilities, maintenance, dispatch and administrative space requirements. Limited transportation is the most common growth impediment for smaller, economically diverse and socially vibrant communities, said Ed Iacobucci, DayJet president and CEO. The Florida cities we have selected to launch our service each have a strong business climate, a well-educated and technology savvy workforce, and an unsurpassed quality-of-life but each is underserved by existing transport networks, inhibiting their full economic potential." Sounds tailor-made for general aviation, doesn't it?
Within 12 months of launch, presently scheduled for "later this year," DayJet says it expects to open an additional four DayPorts in Florida and 12 more DayPorts across three Southeastern states, connecting communities that today have little or no scheduled air service. The company also announced its Day-Tripper contest, winners of which will receive free travel aboard the carrier. Winners of the contest, which runs through Aug. 15, will based on submitted stories best articulating the professional and personal benefits from conducting day trips. Three winners will be selected from each market, for a total of 15 winners. According to the company, business professionals in the five markets named last week are hindered by a lack of efficient travel options and drive for 86 percent of the 592,000 annual business trips taken between these cities. DayJet noted that, between 2000 and 2006, the number of scheduled flights between all Florida markets decreased by 47 percent, while available seat capacity declined by 31 percent. Within its first three years of operation, DayJet expects to employ 2,000 high-skill, high-wage personnel. Presumably, that includes pilots and aircraft maintenance technicians.
A Swiss-based Gulfstream V (GV) business jet operated as a charter aircraft earlier this month surpassed 10,000 flight hours and 2,411 takeoffs/landings, Gulfstream Aerospace said. The GV reached the milestone during an overnight flight from Lilongwe International Airport in Malawi, Africa, to London-Luton Airport in England. The GV has proven to be extremely reliable, said Peter Fried, executive chairman and chief executive officer of the aircraft's operator, G5 Executive. G5 Executive took delivery of the GV on May 5, 1998.
The milestone GV unsurprisingly was the first aircraft in the GV fleet to undergo engine midlife and overhaul, according to Gulfstream. In addition to the fleet-leading GV, G5 Executive also operates three other Gulfstream business jets two large-cabin, ultra-long-range G550 aircraft and one large-cabin G450 aircraft. According to Fried, G5s Gulfstream fleet averages 440 flight hours a month.
Jet Aviation this week said its Dusseldorf facility was recently named an FAA certified repair station, allowing it to perform scheduled and unscheduled maintenance, airframe and engine repairs, avionics modifications, inspections and defect rectifications on U.S. registered aircraft. With the approval for Dusseldorf, Jet Aviation now has two FAA-certified repair stations in Germany, including Hannover. The newly certified facility offers complete maintenance, repair and overhaul, avionics, refurbishment, FBO and 24-hour AOG services. It is an authorized service center for the Cessna Citation series and the Raytheon Aircraft Beech series, including the Premier I, as well as for the Embraer Legacy ERJ 135CJ and Avanti Piaggio. Maintenance work can also be performed on the Hawker 400 XP and 800.
The facility has three hangars totaling 66,100 square feet, including various workshops, a spare-parts stock and a comprehensive technical library, and offers ample space to accommodate aircraft of all sizes on its ramp. Jet Aviation said Dusseldorf International Airport is a popular destination for U.S.-registered aircraft, and the status of a FAA repair station will open up a new market segment. "We can now support aircraft operators from the U.S. and are able to cater to their various maintenance needs. This is especially true for U.S. registered Citation and Embraer aircraft since we are an authorized service center for the Cessna Citation series and the Embraer Legacy ERJ 135CJ," said Johannes Turzer, senior vice president and general manager of Jet Aviation's facilities in Germany.
Pilatus Business Aircraft earlier this month announced launching the first in a series of regional Operators Conferences for its popular PC-12 turboprop single. The first PC-12 regional Operators Conference is scheduled for Aug. 17, 2006, in Manchester, N.H. All PC-12 owners, operators and Service Center personnel are invited to attend. The conference will be a full-day, interactive meeting focusing on maintenance and operational issues. For additional information, interested parties should contact Piotr Pete Wolak, Pilatus vice president of customer service.
In our ongoing efforts to continuously communicate with our entire PC-12 customer base, we felt the need to make ourselves more accessible to the owner and operator community, said Wolak. The PC-12 regional Operators Conference will complement those interactions which already occur at NBAA M&O seminars, Pilatus Owners and Pilots Association (POPA) conventions and numerous trade shows we attend each year. This new regional Conference concept is designed to facilitate direct two-way communication with many of our owners and operators who might not be able to attend the other venues.
It's been a while since we heard from the chemtrail crowd -- the foil-hatted bunch who believe jet contrails are really the deployment of mind-control chemicals -- but news coming out of a UK-based university may have them howling at the moon again. The reason is a new study that concludes -- get this -- that nighttime jet operations may have a greater impact on the world climate than those formed during daylight hours. The study -- conducted by the Meteorology Department at Great Britain's University of Reading and published this week in Nature -- suggests that a widespread adoption of night-flying restrictions could help minimize the impact. The study shows that even though only one in four flights over the UK occur during the night, these flights are responsible for at least 60% of the climate warming associated with aircraft condensation trails (contrails).
According to the university, contrails affect the climate by reflecting some of the suns energy back to space, which cools the earth. At the same time, they enhance the natural greenhouse effect by trapping energy emitted from the Earths surface in the atmosphere, leading to warming. On average the greenhouse effect prevails and the climate warms. The contribution that nighttime flying makes to climate warming is so high because the cooling effect only happens when the sun is up, whereas the warming effect occurs both day and night. The study concentrated on "persistent contrails" -- those remaining for an hour or so after forming. Said one researcher involved in the study, "The findings have implications beyond their pure scientific value; they could be used if policy makers decided to modify flight management systems in order to reduce the climate impact of aviation."
Ever wonder what the national average is for a gallon of avgas? Need to find up-to-the-minute fuel prices at all the FBOs along your route? Starting this week, you can answer those questions and plan your flights with AVweb's new Fuel Finder (to your right).
Featuring data provided by AirNav, the Fuel Finder will appear in every issue of AVwebBiz -- listing the latest prices for 100LL and Jet A and showing you how much those prices have risen or fallen in the last seven days. To get local fuel prices, just enter a U.S. ZIP Code or a 3- or 4-letter Airport Identifier into the Fuel Finder and click "Go."
...the next issue of AVweb's BizAVflash will be e-mailed to you on July 5.
See you then...